Whoever said that change is the only constant was on to something. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen enormous changes in everything from social mores, to communication, to travel…and I’m pretty sure that most of the people who regularly read this blog can offer lots of other examples.

Apparently, even the widespread belief in generational differences–the life changes that have formed the basis of innumerable poems and novels, that have spawned repeated admonitions of how “someone your age” should behave–is undergoing a change.

According to a report in Fast Company, BMW in Germany is pioneering a multi-generational workplace.

The growing potential of the multigenerational workplace challenges the traditional way in which we think about people of different ages and what we can do and accomplish at various points in life. We frequently hear people say, “I’m too young for that job,” or “I’m too old to learn a new gig.” When universal schooling and “old-age” pensions were first introduced in the 1880s, life became organized into a simple sequence of stages. Infanthood was all about growing and playing. School, and perhaps college, would follow, and then work. Before we knew it, we would be in retirement, looking back at the linear pattern that a full and orderly life was supposed to be, hoping that our children and grandchildren would successfully replicate the very same trajectory in their own life spans. Our time in this world became compartmentalized into a rigid series of distinct stages ever since.

I call this way of organizing our lives the sequential model of life. Over the past 150 years or so, every generation has been told to follow the exact same rules all over the world, from Japan to the United States, and from Scandinavia to the southern tip of Africa. Meanwhile, wars were fought, empires came and went, women gained the right to vote, and we set foot on the moon and dispatched robotic rovers to Mars. But we continued to live our lives in the same old way, one generation after another, in endless reprise.

This state of affairs is becoming obsolete due to long-standing demographic transformations.

People now live longer, for one thing. In 1900, average life expectancy at birth in the United States was 46 years; as of 2022, it’s 78. Americans who have made it to age 60 can expect to live an average of another 23 years, dramatically up from just 10 years in 1900.  As the article points out, that’s “another lifetime within a lifetime.” (Western Europeans are even better off, with a life expectancy at age 60 of 25 years.)

As anyone with eyes can see, not everything about our increasing longevity is positive–there are frictions between younger, taxpaying generations and those in retirement enjoying healthcare and pension benefits. Many people struggle with transitioning from one stage to another. We’re all subject to the destabilizing effects of technological change.

The article suggests that we think about life differently–that we rethink the ways in which “rising life expectancy, enhanced physical and mental fitness, and technology-driven knowledge obsolescence” are working to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the human life course, “redefining both what we can do at different ages and how generations live, learn, work, and consume together.”

The multi-generational workforce at BMW includes older workers–dubbed “perennials”–and the experiment has increased productivity.

The author predicts a massive transformation, a “postgenerational revolution” that will “fundamentally reshape individual lives, companies, economies, and the entire global society.”

As a result, we will witness the proliferation of perennials, “an ever-blooming group of people of all ages, stripes, and types who transcend stereotypes and make connections with each other and the world around them . . . they are not defined by their generation,” in the words of Gina Pell, a serial entrepreneur….

If people could liberate themselves from the tyranny of “age-appropriate” activities, if they could become perennials, they might be able to pursue not just one career, occupation, or profession but several, finding different kinds of personal fulfillment in each. Most importantly, people in their teens and twenties will be able to plan and make decisions for multiple transitions in life, not just one from study to work, and another from work to retirement.

Sounds great to these old ears…..


  1. “Sounds great to these old ears…..”

    It turns out that old ears, connected to old, more experienced by trial and error, learning and teaching brains, hear differently, causing the mouth to speak, and the similarly aged fingers to type different thoughts than others hear, type, or speak. Just sayin’.

    Humans, like all life, adapt individually and slowly to changing environments, creating collective trends among their species that sway history.

  2. Wow,

    That sounds very kumbaya’ish!

    Mortality is humanitys Maine impediment. Not so much the 600 lb gorilla in the room, but one of several, maybe the silverback.

    Every generation feels that they can do it better. Mistakes of previous generations are never learned from, because within a generation, those mistakes are forgotten! In retrospect, humans find it difficult to get along with each other on this incredible shrinking planet we live on. Reinventing the wheel is something that every generational genius attempts. Then after the failures, the wheel is the best option. But then, in a generation or two, the geniuses are back to reinventing the wheel. If you look back through history, you could really predict what is going to happen, and why!

    But one issue that we could probably find different outcome, would be religion! I really believe that eventually, these governments will be tired of draining their treasury to fight wars that have been started for religious reasons. Fanatics blowing stuff up, starting conflict just to create some sort of anarchical pathway to an ill conceived notion!

    When these anarchical notions really impede capitalism, whether it’s here or in China, or in Russia, or in Britain, or France, Australia or New Zealand, South Africa or South Korea, capitalism in some form or fashion lubricates the mechanisms that the upper echelon craves for financial windfalls.

    The greed Factor has always been responsible for human conflict. Self-righteous indignation will absolutely drive a global focus on the disruptive forces of organized religion. When it affects the pocketbooks of the Uber wealthy, anything goes to continue the pathway of more is better.

    These powerful forces will disengage with each other, and One will repudiate the other and vice versa. The demise of government? Or the demise of religion? I would absolutely take a bet on the latter.

    I’ve never been able to relate to people supposedly living their dream. Our family was large, we tried to live decent lives! Unfortunately, my father and two brothers died. So historically, we can say that things are going to continue on until the modernity and rapidity of communication catches up or surpasses The level of dysfunction in government and religion.

    I personally would bet on government annihilating religious sects to the point where many will feel that consternation towards something that they truly believed would work. Then and only then will be the reckoning. And, that will be a global changing moment. Good? Bad? Indifferent? And obviously there will be a lot of resistance into that moment of change.

    That’s coming, eventually, and it’s going to cause extreme sadness and unleash retribution, and personally, I believe, so many will be awestruck, add a movement that will bring such great change. But even that will be too late! The power of revenge and chaos will be unfold display! And this will be where kumbaya goes to die!

  3. Living longer and having opportunities to engage in different careers over one’s lifespan sounds like the best argument ever for a foundational education in the liberal arts. Only after that is achieved should a person seek out the knowledge and skills of technology and the arts. In fact, short sprints back into education throughout one’s life would aid one to achieve that “life well lived’.

  4. Sheila. Of course people who expect to live 80 years are going to behave and plan differently than those who expect to live 40 years. The changes that sound good to your old ears are already taking place and will continue to do so with or without corporate intervention. I’d say that companies like BMW that adapt quickly to those changes will probably be more successful than companies that cling to outmoded attitudes and practices. Evolution works.

    And speaking of evolution, just as an aside, I think Speaker Mike Johnson is sitting very near the tip of a dead end branch.

  5. “I’ll have one of whatever she’s drinking…” GAB (Gimmie….): life expectancy in the US took a hit downward from Covid and continues that way due to mental issues, drugs, speeding…many of these fueled by younger generations.

    Let’s see….robotics are taking over many jobs that don’t require a college degree and AI is clearly threatening many that do. Young people want to work from home and have more time for leisure. So, how does this fit with older workers???

    Sounds like something BIMMER would put out for PR for their elite corporate customers! Sheila, you’ve been PRed…

  6. Have you seen the meme that states:

    Those wanting to raise the retirement age to 70 are the same people that won’t hire you if you’re over 50!

    The republicans won’t lower the retirement age or access to Medicare from 65 or in my case 66 and 10 months for social security. I just found out the only pension I qualify for was discontinued at my former employer last month. I worked there 5 years and barely qualified because the company stopped offering pensions to new hires while I worked there. Now, I find out the 200 a month I was going to get won’t be available to me. I’m damn lucky that I’m married and my spouse supports me because I got screwed in the pension department.

    I’m a perfect example of someone that worked for only one company over the 40 years I worked that even offered a pension and I have to depend on SS from my below average earnings because I didn’t have a degree until I was middle age! Women get the absolute shaft with unequal pay and years worked (especially if they had children ).

    I doubt I will live to 85 because I used to smoke and drink and those days are now filled with aches and pain and undiagnosed thyroid disease that ruined my body because women aren’t getting proper medical care either. I have horror stories from the doctors that failed to treat my issues until I started taking my spouse with me on appointments. He has stories now from what he’s had to do to force the doctors to treat me!

    Sorry, grumpy today. The news is really disturbing.

  7. So, so, Sorry for the unrelenting nincompoopery Aging L Girl! I can actually relate to what you are dealing with. I’ve had to do the same thing for my wife. It’s so emotionally draining, it’s like being sucked into a life draining black hole, devoid of compassion or empathy. And very concerned about Your well-being? More like how to make you more miserable. SMH, kind of like the German Nazis when they decided folks who needed medical care, the elderly, physically and psychologically infirmed, we’re a drag on resources, so they decided to eliminate that problem by execution!

  8. John, Isn’t that the republicans’ modus operandi?
    Get sick, die quickly.
    You’re a burden on your family, your society and the government doesn’t owe you anything. You’re on your own. Good luck with that.

    I’m okay but finding out the hoops I have to go through to get my pension in a year just ticks me off. It just forces me to stay married or end up living on a sidewalk in a tent. Some choices!

  9. AgingLGirl brings up two important issues, to which a third is related. There is a reluctance to hire older people by many companies, but even assuming that went away, the idea of changing careers is much harder than it looks. Companies don’t retrain their own people. If you are doing X and they are replacing it with Y, you are on the street while they hire someone who already knows Y.

    And don’t think that retraining on your own helps. I am an Oracle certified DataBase Administator — and never worked as one. No “experience”. How do I get “experience”? Let someone else hire you first.

    Then there is our new “ownership” economy, AKA “you are on your own”. Even if you are working for a company that offers a 401K or something similar, you have to figure out how much you need. People don’t just live 23 years after age 60 and drop over. That is the average. Statistics work best with large numbers. They don’t work if the number is one. Pension plans could use statistics to estimate needs, the larger the plan, the more accurate the prediction, but an individual? Not a chance.

    True anecdote – I once used a financial planning calculator on a website from my IRA to calculate my life expectancy for planning my needed IRA balance before I could retire. It was crude and asked about a dozen questions. It said that I would live until I was 66. I was 68 at the time. So much for rational planning.

    Still I have been working from home since the pandemic and nobody has been asking me to move to one of their offices — on the expensive west coast. I had been bracing for that, so maybe attitudes can change about older workers and about multiple careers. We can hope.

  10. Gina Pell (as translated by Sheila today) is on to something. Take me, for example. I am apparently to be compartmentalized as a perennial +, having participated in WW II and being “retired” for the past 34 years, but guess what? My older daughter and I are going to Antarctica next month in search of summertime, and if we survive the penguin attacks will be back to these latitudes in time to welcome the fat man in the red suit from the other pole.

    To the topic > Sociologists employ the statistical device of “averages” to bulwark their theses, but as Pell’s treatment suggests, that is a poor device for the measurement of change which, as I often write, is itself changing. Thus our measuring stick for change is itself changing and the lazy if convenient use of “averages” and other such means of measurement of change is thus suspect. A very rough analogy with this situation in the law would be the difference between procedure and substance and their arbitrary and anti-change compartmentalization in one size fits all applications.

    To wax philosophical, one of the good things about aging is that one has more time to experience things he or she could not otherwise have experienced. Thus the trip to Antarctica completes my continental bucket list, having visited all the others, far beyond what I ever could have contemplated as the son of a working class coal miner in southern Indiana brought up during the Great Depression and WW II. I had help and opportunity; neither of which was available to my forebearers who lived under immutable change fashioned to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. But I wander. . .

  11. Hey Len,
    When my spouse took over my retirement accounts, we moved some things around. I trust he knows what he’s doing. He exclaimed that 401k accounts are difficult to manage but he was trained in them so knew what he was doing. He said, you have to be a financial guru to manage these yourself and Americans aren’t trained for that. I said, we don’t even get civics lessons much less financial planning unless you go for a business degree like he has. I also have a business degree because that employer actually reimbursed my final classes for my degree. I guess I’m just lucky? I married a numbers guy otherwise I would have never recovered from the 08 crash. He explained the UK pension system that he was used to. We could learn a thing or two.

  12. Gerald: safe travels,
    One of my friends here took a sailboat trip to Antarctica in June, dead of winter. They (her and her hubby) had to assist with the sails and meal prep for the guests. She said it was amazing to see and do.

    Too cold for me! Have the time of your life!

    Professor: I hope you too are having the time of your life!

  13. It seems the sequential model of life is in flux over various demographics and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is relevant in pushing the changes. As we live longer due to increased knowledge and practice of health (indoor plumbing) has a lot to do with that, our collective needs are changing to more social and self-fulling aspects. I recommend reading Hodding Carter’s “Flushed” about how plumbing changed civilization.
    It’s said not many people reach self-actualization and most of us don’t realize that’s what we yearn for. There are a lot of distractions and roadblocks for everyone, but as we live longer maybe we have more opportunities to reach that state (that waxes and wanes) and guide others (by example) too. I benefit from these thought-provoking blogs and people sharing their insights from their lives.

  14. One reason the life expectancy is headed down is that infant mortality is up. That’s what happens when you can’t get the prenatal care you need.

    I’m one of those people who had a variety of jobs. I’ve been a children’s shoe fitter, a high speed sorter operator, a human resources specialist, a data processing manager, a flooring salesperson, a budget analyst, and a research administrator, among other things. Got an MBA at 49. Retired at 65 and started volunteering at a soup kitchen and at church. Now I only have one job left and that’s at church. My friends include people my age, young people raising kids, and even some kids.

    I consider myself a lucky woman. I’m not sure that I’ll live to 80, but I don’t really care. I can’t travel, but I’ve been a lot of places and had a lot of fun. Have a great trip, Professor!

  15. I applaud BMW. They’ve taken an old concept, mentoring, and found a new method of applying it. I’m not surprised that a German company would be doing this. In their economy, labor and management typically have a more collaborative relationship than we have in the US.

    Investing is much easier today than it used to be and we can thank technology. Investing expertise which only the wealthy could afford in the past is now available at a very low cost. Vanguard Funds, for example, offers sophisticated services at extremely low cost. There are many others.

    Pensions went the way of dinosaurs and it’s up to the individual to plan and execute a plan which fits their personal situation. I’m 76 and have been retired 16 years. I was fortunate to learn two principles early on. Create and maintain a habit of saving. Learn the difference between needs and wants.

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